Building a home darkroom

I have worked with film for some time now. From day one I developed my own black & white film at home. This doesn’t take up too much room, so I was able to do it in the bathroom (which is completely internal, with no window).

More recently, I got into printing my negatives rather than just scanning them. For printing, you need more equipment, larger equipment, and a lot of space. Our tiny bathroom wasn’t big enough, so I converted my loft into a darkroom. Here’s how.

I used the space in my loft for my darkroom. It’s quite large, and partially boarded up. I added some more boards to increase the floorspace. Luckily the loft already had a pull-down ladder, so access was easy. You can also see the extension lead I added.

The ladder

For my main work area, I used a spare dining table with two chairs against one wall. There’s no other furniture up there, although I have some boxes to keep things in.

The darkroom

There’s a standing lamp with a 100W bulb which gives reasonable illumination in the work area. The switch is in easy reach of the chair for easy blackout. I also have a clock which ticks loudly, so I can time things in the dark.

The enlarger and lamp

In a couple of areas, the boards overhang joists without reaching the next joist, and so they are unsupported. I taped these areas, and the thin trapdoor, with hazard tape to remind me not to step on them. Luckily these areas are not in the main floor area.

Hazard tape

I also attached some kitchen cupboard handles to the inside of the trapdoor, to make it easier to open from inside. Don’t want to get trapped in the loft!

The trapdoor

There’s no running water, so I bought a jerry can with a tap. This stands on a higher level than the floor, and I put a large bowl underneath the tap. The jerry can holds ten litres, which is enough to last me for several darkroom sessions. I made sure the bowl holds at least ten litres, so it will never accidentally overflow. The paler tray has some small holes at one end, so I can wash prints under running water, while submerged.

The water tank

Being in the loft, with no insulation against the outside world, the temperature can get quite low if the sun isn’t shining. I don’t personally mind being cold, but the chemicals do. I have a fan heater to boost the temperature to an acceptable working range. There’s a thermometer hanging from one of the roof supports. However, I store the chemicals in the house so they keep close to working temperature.

You can also see the safelight in the background, with a choice of three colours.

My thermometer

Also hanging from the roof supports – a drying line for wet prints. This small one only holds three or four prints, but there’s plenty more room to hang more photos.

The drying line

Of course, I’d love a larger workspace, one without roof supports, and one without fibreglass everywhere. But this will do nicely for now, and it’s all I need to develop films and make prints from my classic camera collection. :)

  1. That’s pretty cool! Good work!

  2. I like it! Much better use of your loft than we have – storage of boxes at the mo! And it’s something a bit different to the traditional train set set-up! (although you COULD have that as well, and link the track so that you can deliver your photos by rail to a different part of your house! You could also get food / snacks / drinks etc sent up to the loft via rail from the kitchen!) THINK ABOUT IT!!!

  3. Jonathan's blog » My new darkroom - pingback on December 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm
  4. Greetings!

    This is awesome. Any issues with ventilation? How did you solve this or do you even need to worry about ventilation?

    Thanks,

    Gilbert

    • I didn’t install any ventilation. Personally I never had a problem but I try to use low-odour chemicals and I take regular breaks and open the trapdoor for a bit.

      I moved house since the attic darkroom though. The new house has a proper room with running water and an extractor fan, although I don’t often use it because it’s too loud.

      http://www.jonathangazeley.com/2011/12/my-new-darkroom/

      • I’m working on setting up a detached room (10X10) from my house with a dark room. The only issue is that there is no running water. What chemicals do you use for developing black & white? I checked out your new set-up, looks great.

        • I use Ilford Microphen for developing B&W film, and Ilford PQ for developing B&W paper. In use Ilford Ilfostop as my stop bath for everything, and Ilford Rapid Fixer for everything. It gets smelly if I use toner for my prints, or if I process C-41 colour film.

          If you haven’t got running water then you could get a large camping water carrier.

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